Wednesday, July 24, 2013

POV switches

Someone recently asked me a question on POV switches and what made me decide to incorporate them into my book. I answered their question, but thought it would also make a good blog post.

3rd Person POV Switches
These are the most comment that readers are used to - particularly in Paranormal Romance writing. Often, the perspective changes between the man and the woman, typically separated by a section break or a new chapter. I have actually read books that switch POV's from paragraph to paragraph and I found that excruciatingly jarring.

3rd person style:
Sarah didn't know how to react when Thomas walked into the room. He was ripped like the incredible hulk and all she could think about was latching onto him like Velcro.

Then during the next chapter, it may switch. The author may either redo the scene from his POV, or just carry on where it left off:
Thomas saw Sarah across the room and his stomach wound up into a tight knot. She still had the same lovely smile he fell in love with ten years ago.

Then you have what's popular in NA books, especially.

1st Person POV Switches
These are books that allow readers to know what's going on in everyone's head by switching in 1st person. Usually, like above, it's broken up by section or chapter breaks. I've read books where each chapter begins with the person's name the POV is in.

1st person style:
When Thomas walked into the room, I wanted to tell him how much I've missed him, how he still gave me butterflies and that no man had ever kissed me the way he did.

When the POV switches, it's Thomas's turn to talk about whoever that "I" person is. ;-)


Those books work really well when the switches are consistent and close to 50/50, or if a different POV is sprung at the end as a bonus. Some authors are now breaking up the books and doing each book from a different POV, but that's another story.

WHAT I DO:

Because the POV switches would not be constant, it would be jarring to have them all in 1st person. I decided to write the books the way I wanted to read them, and there are severe limitations to 1st person writing. You can only know the MC's perspective. You only know what's happening to them because you are reading the book through their eyes.

Yeah.

This is a problem because I'm a sucker for those stories and old movies where the audience knows things the characters don't. I've also read books that made me want to get inside someone else's head. But the bottom line is: I have sub storylines going on that you will never know the details about unless you are there to experience them as the reader, and that requires 3rd person POV, because my protagonist is not present (or conscious). I prefer it that way.

This is not commonly done, but it is done. I think when readers complain about the switches, it has to do with the types of books they are conditioned to reading, and most tradpubbed books color in the lines and don't often take big risks. I think it draws out the suspense and can aid in creating chapter cliffhangers. Like in "Twist" when Silver and Logan are in the woods and the two men show up. Scene cut. bwahaha.

But guess what? Some scenes wouldn't be as dramatic if they were only described by a character as to what happened - like someone's death or two characters forming a curious relationship. My sub characters are as equally important to not only me, but the story as a whole. This is Silver's story, but who we are is comprised of all of the people around us that influence our life and change it. Every scene with Logan and Silver would eventually dull away how special their scenes are if I didn't have other things going on.

Additionally, here's another thought:

When you watch a TV show, movie, etc. does the story follow the lead character 100% of every scene? I think that's what makes it so involving to watch. You get to know what the bad guys are talking about in a conference room, or meanwhile in the city, the lead character's woman is involved in some traffic accident and loses a valuable medallion. These pieces of the story all fit together, but I don't need to see the lead character(s) in every single scene.

IN CLOSING:

That is the route I chose with my writing. I baby-stepped readers in the earlier books with small POV switches, but I've done it in every single book, all the way back to Sterling. I think they are some of my favorite scenes in SEVEN YEARS because you are going to see the HEA's point of view and it will give you some big insight to where he's coming from.

How does an author decide what is the best route to go? It's a personal decision. If you do POV switches, there were always be readers who complain, so you have to prepare for that. It's fine, because there are others who truly love those scenes and appreciate that style because it's a refreshing break out of the MC's head. You could try writing it both ways and have someone beta read to see what works.

Yes, I am a little saddened when someone remarks that they didn't see the point of having to see the death scene or see those characters. I wrote those scenes all the way back to Twist because other people have lives too, and readers can connect to that. Those who didn't really care about this character and skipped over his scenes in earlier books were in for an unexpected shock when the impact of the death came. Yeah, maybe you did really care more than you thought. I think that was a perfect example of how we take for granted the people in our lives - that they'll always be there, and it's not until they're suddenly taken from us do we realize how much they meant and all the things we should have told them. So it was important for me to honor that storyline by not having it as a heresay within the books, but allowing the readers to know them on a more personal level.

Sometimes you take chances, and it either works or it doesn't. There is no right or wrong.

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